The President's Pew
State Funeral at National Cathedral to Follow
Hours after Gerald R. Ford's death, workers at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church began preparations for his public viewing on a pulpit just feet from where he sat every Sunday--"The President's Pew."
Staff at the church he and his wife attended for years cleared away a sea of decorative Christmas poinsettias to make space on the pulpit for his casket. Now they're rushing to order funereal floral arrangements and call up reserve ushers for a private family prayer service and public viewing Friday.
"This is the biggest memorial we've had," the Rev. Daniel Rondeau, associate rector, told The Associated Press."The Fords are our big celebrities."
Ford's casket will arrive at the church at 12:20 p.m. Friday accompanied by his widow, Betty, and family. After a 12:30 p.m. private prayer service, close friends will have visitation, followed by public viewing starting about 4:20 p.m. and continuing through the night. The casket will remain closed throughout.
At 9 a.m. Saturday the casket will be taken, with ceremonies, to Palm Springs International Airport for a 10 a.m. flight to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and motorcade to Washington, D.C. Ford will have a state funeral in the Capitol Saturday, lie in state and have a funeral at the National Cathedral on Jan. 2.
Ford's body will then be flown to Grand Rapids, Mich., for services and viewing before interment Jan. 3 in a hillside tomb at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
Ford, the nation's 38th president, was 93 when he died Tuesday at his home in Rancho Mirage, near Palm Desert.
The Fords began worshipping there in 1977 after leaving the White House and retiring to Rancho Mirage.
They sat one row back from the front in a spot marked with a plaque labeled "The Presidents Pew." Another plaque is inscribed "The Honorable & Mrs. Gerald R. Ford."
Church officials say Ford has kept high-power company at the church over the years. Notables who have joined the Fords for services include former President George H. W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.